Burned Nearly to Death by Laughing Teenage Girls, Two-Month-Old Kitten Named Adam Is Fighting for His Life in Santa Rosa
"I was in shock. I didn't know whether I should grab him with my hands or a wet towel. I picked him up and walked him to the bathroom and turned on the water in the sink. He turned his head and started lapping water from my hand. I didn't think he was going to make it until he looked me in the eye. He wanted to live."
-- Sarah Bowlan
A two-month-old black kitten named Adam is waging a valiant struggle to live after having been set on fire by two laughing teenage girls in the Apple Valley section of Santa Rosa, seventy kilometers north of San Francisco, on June 20th. (See photo above of him taken shortly after the attack.)
He sustained second and third degree burns over seventy-five per cent of his tiny body. In particular, the skin was burned off his back, his ears were shriveled, and his tail was so badly burned that it had to be amputated. He has already undergone several skin grafts and if infections can be prevented he just might be able to make it.
Staff at the Animal Hospital in Cotati, thirteen kilometers from Santa Rosa, have given him morphine to ease his excruciating pain and antibiotics to ward off infections. His burns are swabbed in a saline solution and his bandages are changed regularly.
His appetite has returned and he is responding well to being petted and having his head scratched. His around-the-clock care includes being taken home each evening by veterinary nurse Tina Wright or one of the other staffers. (See photo below of her with Adam on her shoulder.)
"He doesn't have his tail anymore and he has several more surgeries to go, but he seems happy, he plays," Wright told the San Francisco Chronicle on July 10th. (See "Two Girls Charged in Abuse of Kitten.") "He doesn't have any idea that anything is wrong with him." (See photos below of Adam crawling on a bed and playing with a leash.)
As Hamlet once said, therein lies the rub. Unlike humans, cats and other animals do no have any concept of evil and are therefore defenseless whenever they encounter it. This difference makes it imperative that all men and women of bon sens take their responsibilities toward protecting the animals seriously.
If this sad and heartbreaking case were just another example of juvenile monsters preying upon cats and kittens that would be disturbing enough; unfortunately, it also lays bare one of the many problems associated with TNR.
The details are sketchy but an unidentified man trapped Adam, five other kittens, and an adult tomcat on a farm on June 19th. He then committed the unpardonable faux pas of leaving the caged cats outside his apartment building overnight. The next morning, only der Kater remained; the other two cages containing Adam and five other kittens were gone.
Later in the day, eleven-year-old Cesar Rojas and an unidentified friend from Pagano Court Apartments saw two teenage girls down along the banks of Paulin Creek douse Adam with an accelerant and then set him on fire. Enjoying their devilry to the hilt, the girls were laughing as they carried out their heinous crime. After the perpetrators fled, Rojas and his friend went to the creek and rescued Adam.
"It was barely breathing when we got it," Rojas told the Chronicle on July 11th. (See "Outrage Over Burning of Kitten.") "It wanted to live."
The boys then delivered Adam to the manager of Pagano Court who in turn contacted cat activist Sarah Bowlan.
"I was in shock. I didn't know whether I should grab him with my hands or a wet towel," she recalled for The Press Democrat on June 26th. (See "Burned Kitten Clings to Life.") "I picked him up and walked him to the bathroom and turned on the water in the sink. He turned his head and started lapping water from my hand. I didn't think he was going to make it until he looked me in the eye. He wanted to live."
After belatedly realizing that Adam's burns were too severe for her to attend to, Bowlan handed over Adam to Forgotten Felines of Sonoma County on June 22nd who took him to the Animal Hospital of Cotati. The unharmed tomcat was brought to Forgotten Felines on June 20th and neutered; the remaining five kittens have not been seen again and their fate remains unknown.
Some people believe that the girls released them but Forgotten Felines' boss Jennifer Kirchner has her doubts. "The reason we're suspicious is that we never recovered the other trap, nor have we found any evidence of the other kittens," she told the Chronicle in the July 11th article cited supra. "The kittens were wild so they would have headed for cover, but we would have expected someone to see (sic) something."
Since the trapper retains Forgotten Felines to sterilize the cats that he captures, it has been speculated that he works for the organization. On its web site, Forgotten Felines goes to great lengths, however, to dispel that notion by stating categorically that he is neither one of their employees nor one of their volunteers. More importantly, the group states that its number one rule in trapping cats is never to leave a baited trap, empty or occupied, unattended.
That is, of course, the only proper and humane way to trap a cat. It is also the exception to the rule.
Most traps are set during the evening hours and left unattended overnight. This is bad enough in itself in that it forces cats to spend up to as long as twelve hours in a cage. To deliberately leave seven caged cats outside an apartment building overnight, however, is criminal and the trapper should not only be prosecuted but barred from trapping any more cats.
Practitioners of TNR should take their responsibilities seriously and never leave traps unattended. Moreover, they should ensure that sterilized cats receive postoperative care and are not released too soon after surgery because their incisions sometimes rupture.
Feral colonies should also be fed and watered every day and provided with shelters against the elements. The cats also should be given real meat and grain to eat at least once a week; a steady diet of cheap kibble is not good for them.
Two fifteen-year-old girls were arrested on July 6th and charged with felony cruelty to an animal. Even if convicted the severest sentence that they are eligible for under the law is three years in reform school. The charges against the pair could be upgraded, however, should it be determined that they either harmed or killed the missing five kittens.
This despicable act of animal cruelty has incensed many residents in and around Santa Rosa. Joyce Cormack, for instance, told The Pres Democrat on July 11th that she was angry "because the life of an animal is just as sacred as the life of a human." (See "Retribution Outcry over Kitten Burning.") "My immediate feeling was that I wanted justice to be done and not just a slap on the wrists of this (sic) person."
Other residents are ready to mete out justice themselves. "If I ran into her and knew who she was, I'd probably attack her," Petaluma resident Karen Roy told The Press Democrat. "I really want her to pay for it. I want her to realize what a horrible crime she committed and if she can't, I don't care about her."
Randy Lopez, a college student from Fairfield, told The Press Democrat that the burning has sickened and angered him also. "My initial reaction was, of course, one of inflicting violence in the same tone."
Even Wright has been shocked by the extent of the brutality and the severity of Adam's injuries. "I've been a veterinary nurse for twenty-five years and I've never seen anything like this in my entire life," she told The Chronicle.
The public's justifiable outrage has prompted Sonoma County District Attorney Stephen Passalacqua to declare to The Press Democrat in the June 11th article cited supra that "animal cruelty will not be tolerated in this county." He went on to add, "I certainly understand the public's dismay over the maltreatment of an innocent animal. We hope that by filing charges these individuals will be held accountable and that it will prevent similar behavior in the future."
Passalacqua is on the right track but bringing charges against these two teenage monsters will not be sufficient to stem the mounting tide of feline assaults and killings. This can only be accomplished through the enactment of significantly stronger animal cruelty statutes that are vigorously enforced.
For instance, it was only about two years ago that two teenage hoodlums from Huntly, New Zealand did the same thing to three caged felines. (See Cat Defender post of September 22, 2005 entitled "Two New Zealand Teens Douse Three Caged Cats with Glue and Burn Them to Death.")
Last autumn, a group of teenage thugs from the Atlantic City suburb of Pleasantville tortured and then burned to death a kitten. (See Cat Defender post of October 5, 2006 entitled "New Jersey Teens' Idea of Fun: Beat Up a Defenseless Kitten and Then Burn It to Death.") Even college kids have been known to kill cats for sport. (See Cat Defender post of September 22, 2005 entitled "College Students in South Africa Cook a Cat to Death in a Microwave Oven.")
Across the pond, air guns and fireworks are often the weapons of choice when juveniles decide to maim and kill cats. (See Cat Defender posts of May 7, 2007 and November 30, 2006 entitled, respectively, "British Punks Are Having a Field Day Maiming Cats with Air Guns but the Peelers Continue to Look the Other Way" and "Yobs Celebrating Guy Fawkes Day Kill Twelve-Year-Old Cat Named Tigger with Fireworks; Cat Named Sid Is Severely Burned.")
It could be argued that juveniles who abuse and kill cats, dogs, and other animals are only following the examples set by their worthless parents and other adults. After all, Rousseau in his book on education, Emile, counseled parents to teach by example.
Most noticeably, Animal Control, shelters, and veterinarians murder tens of millions of cats every year in the United States and not a single day passes without bird lovers and wildlife proponents blanketing the moneybags media with their outrageous claims that all cats are vermin and should therefore be immediately exterminated.
Ailurophobia also runs deep in the heart of academia. Earlier this year, for instance, a principal who had previously shotgunned to death two kittens at one school was rewarded with a similar job at another institution. (See Cat Defender post of May 3, 2007 entitled "Principal Who Shotgunned to Death Two Kittens at Minnesota School Is Rewarded with Similar Post in Idaho.")
The manner in which the so-called learned men and women of the universities treat cats and other animals is equally reprehensible. (See Cat Defender posts of February 12, 2007 and September 11, 2006 entitled, respectively, "God-Fearing Baptists at Eastern University Kill Off Their Feral Cats on the Sly While Students Are Away on Christmas Break" and "Selfish and Brutal Eggheads at Central Michigan University Target Colony of Feral Cats for Defamation and Eradication.")
All of these individuals, groups, and institutions are partially to blame for every cat that is either abused or killed. In the case of juveniles, a lion's share of the blame goes to their parents who are failing to give them the proper moral education and supervision that would prevent these horrific crimes from occurring in the first place.
Forgotten Felines is generously footing the bill for Adam's care and Bowlan has gone door-to-door to collect more than $900 in private donations. She also has been making and selling snow cones in order to raise money for Adam.
One indication of the pervasiveness of ailurophobia that exists in this country has been the inordinate amount of criticism that has been hurled at those who are attempting to save Adam's life. The most despicable of all has come from Bob MacKenzie, a reporter for KTVU-TV in San Francisco. (See photo above.)
In a June 30th interview with Kirchner, he callously told her that since Adam's monetary value was zero he was not worth saving. (See "Teenage Girl Suspected in Cotati Kitten Burning.")
"Why shouldn't he be saved?" Kirchner, to her eternal credit, fired back. "This kitten is alive and valuable. I wouldn't be able to euthanize him because, for one, we don't have the money, but I will find the money to care for him."
On her organization's web site she elaborates by stating that Adam will not be killed "because he appears to have a will to live. If at some point in the future, he or his body appear to give up, so will we. Right now there are so many people sending positive energy and thoughts his way, I can't imagine that he won't survive."
Some Santa Rosa residents are even jealous that Adam has received so much attention while teenage victims of gang violence are routinely ignored.
"People are angry and it was wrong, but it bothers me that they're doing so much for the cats and when a person gets killed they just let it pass," twenty-year-old Arturo Mendosa told the Chronicle in the July 11th article cited supra. "It makes me angry that they're doing more for animals than for us."
Sentiments such as those are not only ailurophobic but patently untrue. Abuse, defamation, and either forced sterilizations or exterminations are about all that most cats can ever expect to receive from this violent, moneygrubbing hellhole of a society. On the other hand, even marginalized groups receive free housing, welfare, medical care, and an opportunity to attend school.
While it is certainly true that the capitalist media have always glorified violence, drugs, alcohol abuse, smoking, and promiscuous sex, individuals should have more common sense than to get involved with gangs and drugs. Society should do more to help the underprivileged but they must also help themselves. More importantly, being jealous of the love that caring individuals shower on cats is wrongheaded because compassion for animals usually translates into compassion for people.
Animal Hospital owner Katheryn Hinkle, who also has been criticized for attending to Adam, told The Press Democrat in the June 26th article cited supra that her staff intends to continue to do so for as long as there is a chance that he will survive.
"Feral kittens are the garbage of the community," she added. "Already he's got one strike against him. It's not his fault. We want to do our part to make this a better place than that." (See photo above of her playing with Adam on the bed.)
In a world full of so much moral depravity, callousness, and unspeakable cruelty, all individuals who love cats can be thankful for the existence and unstinting efforts of Katheryn Hinkle, Jennifer Kirchner, and Sarah Bowlan. As for little Adam, his condition is improving every day and it looks like he is going to eventually be all right.
Photos: Mark Aronoff of The Press Democrat (Adam shortly after attack), Crista Jeremiason of The Press Democrat (Adam with Tina Wright), Forgotten Felines (Adam crawling on bed, playing with leash, and with Hinkle), and James Klim, DDS (MacKenzie).